Monday, December 8, 2008

Substance or Snake Oil?

I had opportunity this past week to experiment with Power Cranks. Perusing the home page, these wonders will do everything from making you 40% faster to better in bed. Pretty extravagant, I'd say. Athletic activities of any sort have their list of snake oils. Is this one for cycling?

Power Cranks essentially force you to ride each leg independently of each other as one-legged riding. Your left leg does nothing to help your right leg complete a pedal cycle and vice versa. The theory behind them is you must recruit muscles that normally don't get used with regular cranks because regular cranks let you do lazy things. This laziness means you don't reach your full potential.

So I rode the cranks last Thursday on my lunch break. I figured I've always been a good spinner and didn't think these would be that big of a deal. I watched to all those testimonials on the Power Cranks website how seasoned riders and pro's didn't make it 10 minutes before giving up. And almost nobody tries them on the road first without time on the trainer. Whatever.

Well, clipping in was a real trick. Both pedals hang down at 6 O'clock. Then cornering was the next trick, as it was really hard to keep the inside pedal from hanging down and potentially hitting the pavement. The brain-muscle connection from years of riding regular cranks just isn't wired for these things. It didn't take long to figure out how to pedal with an approximate 180 degree difference between the pedals, but man, it sure was hard to keep it there. And it hurt. Especially the hip flexors. I could only push a big gear, else everything would quickly degenerate into a state of chaos. And stand up and pedal, forget about it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not keep the upstroke leg from going backwards.

I had planned to ride an hour. 45 minutes into the ride (at an easy pace) I knew I was not going to last an hour. My hip flexors were completely shot. I couldn't even hold a pedal up to turn a corner. I finished with 50 minutes of riding time.

So what do I make of these things? They certainly force you to draw on muscles that normally do not contribute to power production. I felt funky things going on all over my core. Hip flexors were probably the weakest link. So this begs the question. If one trained religiously on these things to condition all this untapped potential, would it make you faster? My initial reaction is there is certainly potential. You would have to train frequently enough, like almost all of your hours I think, such that using the newly developed technique is second nature on regular cranks that you would race (PC's are wicked heavy). I wouldn't rule out buying a set, but I have several bikes and wouldn't want to spend all my time training with these crazy things. Time will tell. I might keep it secret.


slowone said...

Doug - I'm a fellow hill climber and I've been using Power Cranks for a couple years. I think they've helped but I modified other parts of my training at the same time so its hard to say how much. I tell myself anything that hurts that much has to help. Anyways, you do have to commit to regular usage but I think once you get your muscles acclimated you can maintain the memory with 2 hours a week leaving the other hours for your regular bikes. BTW - ramp up SLOWLY - I went too hard too fast and ended up with an inflammed achilles tendon and was off the bike for 3 months. Don't make my mistake.

And We Liked It said...

Hey Doug, Matt Kmiec writing. I just sold off a pair of PCs, they never agreed with me. They always bothered my knees, for some reason! Every time I used 'em, I got persistent pain in the upper section of my patellar tendon, just north of the kneecap. It would start not long after the ride did, and go away afterwards. It also never once happened without them! But, eBay was kind to me, and I made most of the dough back.

Hope your mileage is better than mine!

Anonymous said...

Have you spoken to the folks at PowerCranks about the prototype for Mount Washington?